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Diary of an International Rally Italy2014 - Part 2


The Saga continues:

To recap
We arrived late Thursday evening, with the light fading fast, to a somewhat unexpected scene.  A muddy sloping field where vehicles were having trouble getting on and finding a level pitch.  It was getting dark by the time we started to set up camp so we did not see the havoc we had caused until the morning.


Friday 25th July                                          Day 7

06:50.   Woke to the sound of two dogs having a barking competition (or it may have been one dog barking at the echo reverberating off the adjacent mountain).  Emerging from my tent I could now see what havoc we had done last night.  The ground was waterlogged where we set up camp but there was a big round bale of straw next to us which we unravelled and distributed liberally all over the place, to help with the damp, and unfortunately we also managed to plaster the two bikes belonging to the fellow bikers in the van next to us.  We apologised and cleaned the straw off as best we could but they were very understanding and OK about it.
09:00.   Everyone up now possible due to the fact that there was a Scout on a trailer parked next to us on the road, belonging to some Austrians, and the horn kept going off on it’s own.  One of the chaps from the van in front went over and ‘fixed it’.  Sun shining now so hung as many wet clothes I could on the tent to dry off.  Everything got soaked yesterday as the rain was alternating between a deluge and chucking it down in biblical proportions.
Could still smell petrol and discovered the Enfield carb leaking again.  Stripped it down but couldn’t find anything wrong.  Showed it to our resident carb expert (Martyn) who also couldn’t see anything wrong so put it back together, seems OK now.  Sat around chewing the fat and drinking beer in the sunshine (about time!)
15:15    Bill said he fancied a walk to the town and, as this was our first non-riding day for a week, I thought it was a good idea.  It only took around 10 minute.  Went up the very steep path to the Fort and took some pictures of the surrounding area, very picturesque.  Having worked up a thirst with all that climbing we stopped at the first bar we came to on the way down and sat outside with a very welcome cold beer (or several as it turned out).  Brian and Phil came over and sat with us for a while and after some more imbibing Bill and I went back to the rally site.  We had a very pleasant afternoon especially Bill who really enjoyed himself.
19:00    Back in camp now.  Paid my €90 rally fee and went back to my tent.  Phil and Jo have moved their tent to our little encampment as they were getting a bit overcrowded where they were.  Sat around drinking and chatting.
20:00.   Dinner time, pasta with some sort of sauce, chicken and salad and a big tumbler of red wine.  Guitarist playing and singing on a trailer in front of the Marquee.  Sat outside after getting slowly merry as time went on.  Left the others to it and went to bed around 01:00.


Saturday 26th July                                      Day 8

06:00    Woke by the sound of rain hitting the tent, Oh joy another wet day!.  Had to get up needed to use the rudimentary facilities.
08:00    Breakfast consisted of a piece of yesterdays bread, some cheese and slices of ham and salami and a small piece of cake.  No coffee because the machine was playing up.
09:00    Went for a shower, cold water only (didn’t expect that), very invigorating.  Back to the tent after to sort my things out and get ready for the rideout later.

    1. Set off on the rideout with a few other Brit bikers.  Went a different, shorter, route than the official one as we had already done six long rideouts to get here.  Stopped at the first petrol station at the bottom of the hill for some to refuel.

12:25    Stopped by the side of the road (1 fag) for some of our group who waited at the petrol station because Dave had a problem with his bike after refuelling.

    1. Arrived at the Museum.  Short queue for lunch, which was very welcome.  Had a look round the Museum, with Martyn, who said he could find good homes for several of the old carbs on display, thought better of it though and carried on walking round.  Rained a bit on the way here and while we had lunch.
    2. Set off for the Rally Site.  On the way back the rain got worse and at one stage we had to pull over in a lay-by as it was coming down so hard you couldn’t see where you were going, got absolutely soaked.

16:30    Back at the site now.  Changed into some dry clothes and sat in the van drinking tea.  Lorraine, Phil and Martyn went food shopping as everything will be closed tomorrow (Sunday).
17:00    Shoppers back now.  Everyone sitting/standing in the van out of the rain.  We all turned facing forward while Lorraine changes out of her wet things, (tempted to have a peak but didn’t!)
Watching a river of mud sliding down the hill under Phil and Jo’s, Anita and Peter’s and Martyn’s tents, they took their clothes out and put them in the van, just in case.  Can’t be bothered to go out and see what is happening to my stuff.  Phil and Jo might have to sleep in their van tonight which, unfortunately, is still at the top of the field.  Bought a souvenir T shirt, at least I’ll have something clean to wear tomorrow.  Sat around chatting till dinner time.
20:00    Went up to the Marquee for dinner, which was well under way when we got there.  I know the facilities are not brilliant here but my chicken was under cooked and inedible and the rest of the meal was not up to much either.  I get the feeling that the others are not too impressed as well.  Sat in the van after and everyone’s getting a bit tired so went to bed just after 22:00.  There was a fair amount of noise coming from the Marquee, seems some of them are having a good time.
I hope it warms up tomorrow so I can dry my stuff out before we set off on the homeward journey, and if the next campsite doesn’t have a laundry it looks like I’ll have to rummage through my dirty washing bag to find something not too smelly to wear as I’m running out of clean clothes.

Mileage            7124 – 7182 = 58


Sunday 27th July                                        Day 9

06:20    Woken by the dawn chorus, one dog barking one dog whining.  Can see San Leo town through the rolling clouds with some bright skies above.  Martyn still ‘driving ‘em home’.  The sun didn’t last long as we’re now in the clouds and it’s turned chilly.
07:00    Bill’s made the tea and we are joined by Aussie Andrew for a cuppa.  Lorraine and Jo off to the Marquee to get our breakfast.  Some people are leaving already (probably wanted to get home and dry out!).  Helped some of them push their bikes off the field and load them as everywhere is very slippery, several people slipping over, some with their bikes.  What started out as a misty morning slowly turned to crap and it’s now misty rain.
14:00    Eating lunch watching a tractor helping vans and cars to get off the field, a car and trailer slid down the hill and caught the side of a caravan at the bottom, not too much damage.  Phil managed to get his van down, zigzagging a bit and parked it in the lane.  At last the sun is shining, tied a rope between the tents and bikes to hang our wet clothes on.  Getting quite warm now so sat under the shade of the tree, chilling.
15:30    We all walked to the town except Bill who was feeling a bit under the weather (probably something to do with undercooked chicken yesterday), Nobby came as well.  Surprised to see the town was busy with tourists, mainly Italians, and all the shops open.  Lorraine and Jo joined the queue for ice creams, there was only one girl serving who was doing her best but because the queue wasn’t getting any shorter was under pressure and it took ages to get served, worth the wait though.  Met Sybil outside her hotel, which was a surprise, because we were told that she had already left for the airport, obviously untrue.  Walked to the vantage point at the end of the town to see if we could see the results of the landslide on the original rally site but couldn’t see anything.  Went back to Sybil’s hotel and sat outside the restaurant in the afternoon sun drinking, chatting and chilling.
18:30    Back at the site now.  Fred the Frenchman had come back after leaving earlier this morning, as his bike was not running properly.  After assistance from several interested parties he set off again an hour later.  Unfortunately he had to come back again as his generator packed up and he was hoping he could borrow one to get him back to Brittany.  Martyn gave him a hand for a while but eventually said the armature was knackered.  He declined dinner with us, he said he wanted to fix the bike while it was still light.  He did ask if we could take him and his bike back into France as he could get it recovered from there, he does not have cover for Italy.  Some started packing up ready for leaving tomorrow.

Earlier this morning Claude Van Gesel was taken to hospital with a ‘Dickey Ticker’ and will have to stay there for a few days, hope he’s OK.  We ‘volunteered’ to take his bike back home to Belgium for him as we are going that way.  We loaded his Chief and Jo’s bike in Phil’s van.  Bill still feeling poorly and went to bed.
22:30    Tired after today, so off to bed now.

My overall impression of this rally was disappointment.  I know you can’t do anything about the weather, and I know the rock fall at the original site prevented it being used, but that was over four months ago.  I would have thought somewhere a bit flatter could have been found in that time and as for the rest of the facilities saying they were primitive is being kind.


Monday 28th July                                       Day 10

The trip home (the Return of the Natives)

On our homeward journey we are being joined by Phil Clarke and Jo and Pete Selby and Margaret (Jo will be driving their van with Margaret) Phil and Pete will be riding.

03:00    Had to get up for a call of nature, couldn’t get back to sleep for ages (that’s one of the joys of getting older).
05:45    Awakened by the usual dawn chorus of the two dogs barking and whining with the added pleasure of a cockerel crowing it’s head off.
06:00    Nobby just left with Jurgen the German close behind.  After breakfast everyone started clearing their kit away and breaking camp ready for the off.  Sun coming up over the hill, looks like it might be a good day.  Fred still here and luckily for him a Dutchman called Ben, worked his magic on Fred’s Armature with a soldering iron and managed to fix it.  Fitted it back on the bike and all seems OK now.  He set off for home again without, I hope, any more problems.
09:15    Nearly packed up, just waiting for the tents to dry out in the sun before packing them in the van.  Still in shorts because it’s so warm.  Pete S and Margaret are here, he’s changing his seat for the ride home.
09:30    Set off for our next campsite, Agricamping Corti Oppietti, Gazzauolo, Mantova.  Stopped at the first petrol station to re-fuel.
09:55    Had to stop because Pete H got stung in the ear by a bee that flew into his helmet, (turned into a 1 fag break).  In some of the lay-by’s we passed there were a number of young ladies in very short skirts standing around waiting for who knows what, maybe their ‘friends’ to pick them up!
12:10    Stopped for refreshments (3fags) and Lorraine to go food shopping for tonight.  Set off again at 13:10.
15:00    Stopped in front of a shop in a small town we had already been through once, couldn’t find our way out.  Some very helpful locals gave us directions and one of them eventually lead us on his bike out of town and pointed us in the right direction.  A roadside sign on the way here read 38° (God it’s hot).
17:05    After a few wrong turns we arrived at the campsite, it’s on a farm in the middle of nowhere and flat, which makes a change.  There are some lovely ‘country smells’ wafting across from the adjacent fields, smells like the next door farmer is spreading fertiliser.  There is a sound of thunder in the distance, Pete S said the forecast for tomorrow is storm and tempest, great!  Put the tents up as quickly as we could as it’s starting to rain.  There is a hooped metal frame in the middle of the site with a thin cover over the top, good for shade but useless in the rain.  We blagged a big plastic sheet at the rally site which fitter perfectly over the frame keeping the water out, at least the rain stopped by the time we had dinner.  When we arrived the flies were making a meal of us and when it got dark the mosquitoes were doing a pretty good job as well.  After dinner went for a shower and that was an experience!  The toilet block looked like an overgrown Wendy House at the bottom of the garden.  There were 2 ‘Turkish’ squat toilets and 3 showers, one of which was full of cleaning stuff.  As I opened the door to a shower a little mouse ran out and disappeared under the sinks opposite, well we are in the country after all.  The water was warmish and OK until Phil came in and turned his shower on then all my hot water vanished.  Came back and sat under the canopy for a while but as the mozzies were still having a ‘field day’ went to bed 21:45.  A couple of times during the night the alarm on Phil’s van went off for no apparent reason, happened at the rally site as well.

Mileage            7182 – 7368 = 186


Tuesday 29th July                                      Day 11

06:00    Woke up and read for a while till I heard the familiar sound of a teaspoon rattling in the cups.  Using those toilets is one of the things you have to experience at least once so you know you never want to do it again!  Packed up after breakfast and checked the bike ready for today’s ride.
10:50    Set off for our next campsite, Camping Ticino, Pavia (still in Italy).
12:05    Stopped in a lay-by to put our wet weather gear on because it’s raining.  The Enfield won’t tick over and keeps stopping.  I went to start it to give it a tweak and it came off the sidestand and fell over.  Bill came over to give me a hand to right it but I had to wait as he was busy in the bushes!  Phil and Martyn had a look, twiddled a couple of screws, and it seems OK now.  Not been bothered by the sun so far although it’s fairly warm.  At least the rain stopped by the time we left at 12:30.
13:05    First fuel and fag (2) and coffee stop of the day.  Left at 13:50.  Not long after, the heavens opened up again and, I don’t know if that was the cause, but we had a couple of Sat Nav malfunction in the town when it tried sending us the wrong way down one-way streets.
15:05    Arrived at the campsite which was closed till 16:00 so we sat outside the gates with a cold one waiting, with some Dutch caravaners, for the manager to arrive.  Margaret walked in through the side gate to have a look round, there are proper toilets and a washing machine, at least I’ll have some clean clothes now.  Setting up camp I found my airbed was flat, pumped it up but it went down again.  Managed to find the hole and stuck a patch on, hope it’s OK now.  Headed for the laundry area to do my washing, then went food shopping with Phil and Lorraine.  Because it was still wet outside had dinner in the reception building as there are several long tables and benches.
22:30    Too tired to shower now (will have one in the morning) and so to bed.

Mileage            7368 – 7454 = 86

Wednesday 30th July                                  Day 12

00:00    Woke up because my airbed had gone flat again, laid there till 03:00 but couldn’t stand the hard ground any more so pumped it up with the electric pump, hope it didn’t wake anyone.
06:00    Went for a shower, not too many people around at the moment.  Washing still wet from yesterday nothing dried because of the rain and damp.  Mosquitoes still biting, been around since last night.
08:00    Breaking camp.  Bill loaded his Chief as he will be giving the Virago a run this morning.
10:00    Set off in the rain (it stopped after 20 miles or so) on our last ride in Italy.  Tonight we are camping at  Camping Les Chimes near Chamonix in the French Alps.
11:30    Fuel and fag stop.  Very enjoyable ride here, some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and the snow covered Alps, great scenery. 
12:00    Set out for the Tunnel in the sunshine but gloves on now as it’s getting colder.  Had a problem when I pulled up at the side of the road and the Enfield stopped (lost compression).  Got it going again after a few minutes.
13:40    Lunch and fuel stop, last one before the Tunnel.  Been riding through valleys between the mountains, what a great place.  Vineyards half way up, what appeared to be very steep slopes, God knows how they harvest the grapes up there.  Lovely day now, sun shining, warm and windy sitting outside the Café.  Loaded the Virago and Pete H’s bike to save the Mont Blanc tunnel toll.  Pete S also loaded his bike in Phil’s van for the same reason.  Left at 14:50.
15:10    Had to stop because Anita’s bike was playing up, Pete changed the battery.  Off again 15:20.
16:40    Arrived at the Tunnel entrance via a series of tunnels between 1, 2 and 3 kms long, climbing steadily for some time.  Had to wait a while as there was a queue to go through (not too long).  Toll for the bike was €28.50.  Interesting ride through, first time for me, keeping 150m behind the vehicle in front (2 blue lights) and riding between 50 and 70 Kph.  Going into the tunnel the sun was shining and it was a warm day but there was quite a noticeable drop in temperature emerging at the French end.  Massive queues this side going towards the tunnel, luckily not much traffic our side.
17:20    Reached the next campsite which was only a few miles away with great sights of Mont Blanc.  Set up camp and, Oh joy it’s chucking it down again, (now I remember why I gave up camping when I was 18).  Did some preventative maintenance as the Enfield’s been running a bit lumpy, Martyn and Anita have had problems as well.  Someone did suggest it may have something to do with the petrol we have been using lately.  The facilities here are OKish.  There are 4 toilets 2 pans, but no seats, and 2 ‘Turkish’ style, 7 showers and somewhere to wash up and do the laundry and a washing machine, but no dryer.
22:10    End of the day, off to bed.

Mileage            7454 – 7624 = 170

Thursday 31st July                                     Day 13

05:45    Awake now, no sign of Bill with the tea yet.  Cool this morning due to the low cloud on the mountains.  Hopefully the sun will make an appearance later so I can get my washing dry, still damp, otherwise it’s moist under crackers again!  On motorways later as we have a lot of ground to cover today (250 miles or so).
07:00    Everyone up now, breakfast time, then off to the showers.
09:40    Just about finished packing up, leaving the washing line up till the last minute.
09:50    Set off for Camping Navarre at Langres.  Managed to get away after a couple of false starts as Anita’s bike is still playing up.
10:40    Stopped just passed a Peage toll booth as Anita’s battery does not seem to be charging, maybe a loose wire somewhere.  Quite a ride down the mountain roads twisting and turning and fairly steep in places.
12:25    Fuel and fag (2) stop.  Three Peage’s so far, perhaps more to come.
14:20    Lunch and fuel stop.  Driving on Motorways is boring and I was nearly dozing off on the way here.  Gave the Enfield some gun at one stage to try and wake me up, it worked, much to the amusement of the others as I thundered past them and took the lead for a while.  A double espresso from a machine and another coffee from Bill, feeling fairly wired now!  Set off at 15:00 only another 90 or so miles to go!
17:20    It’s been a long ride but we’re here at last and what a great site, in the ruins of an old medieval fort within spitting distance of the town.  Setting up camp and it’s ‘Miller Time’ as soon as Bill can get to the fridge.  Phil, Jo and Lorraine went shopping for breakfast tomorrow, as tonight we are eating out to give them a break from cooking.  Pete H, Martyn and Bill are doing some more preventative maintenance on their bikes.  The sun’s shining and it’s a very pleasant evening.  Finally, when everyone was ready, we strolled into town to have look round and find somewhere to eat, there’s certainly plenty of places to choose from.  Pete S and Margaret had a walk into town earlier, we met up with them later.  Found a busy restaurant at the end of the high street and a very obliging waiter put some tables and chairs out for us as everywhere was full. Lovely meal of steak, chips and salad followed by ice-cream and cheese accompanied by beers and wine, great evening.
22:40    A gentle saunter back to the campsite.  We spotted a Bakery on the way back and I volunteered to get something for tomorrow’s breakfast.
23:20    After an exhausting day went to bed.  In terms of the weather, today was the best day we’ve had on this trip so far.

Mileage            7624 – 7886 = 262

Friday 1st August                                       Day 14

Last night out under the stars, only one more sleep till home!

05:20    Up now because (a) I needed a ‘P’ and (b) my bloody airbed had given up again (and both my pillows were pretty much U/S as well).  I can smell the fresh bread wafting across the site.
05:45    Went for a shower then read for a while.  Bill must be up as the van door’s open but there’s no sigh of him.
06:30    Bill came back from the showers and made us tea and coffee.  I walked the short distance to the Bakery and bought a couple of Baguettes and a bag of fresh croissants.  Big breakfast today as we will have an early start tomorrow and we won’t have time for a cook up.
09:40    Started off for our last campsite before home, Camping Du Vivier to Carp at Seraucourt-le-Grand just outside St. Quentin, and the sun is shining, looks like it’s going to be another fine day.
11:15    Fuel and fag (2) stop.  Had a few problems finding a petrol station, eventually found a supermarket, just as well as Anita went onto reserve a few miles back.  Lorraine and Jo gone shopping for tonights meal.  Sun really warm now.
13:05    Lunch and fuel stop (and fags obviously).  Burger and chips washed down with a double espresso.  It’s all down hill from here, only another 90 miles to go!
16:35    Arrived at our last campsite.  The last 10 miles or so was especially hard, particularly on my rear end, and the sun is splitting the pavements.  We have been driving in open country and I really thought we would be camping in an open field with holes dug in the ground for toilets.  How wrong can you be, this site is great with excellent facilities (not a hole in sight).  Passed Fred and Co outside some shops just before the entrance.  Had a couple of beers while taking in the rays before putting the tents up.  Started packing as much to save time tomorrow
20:00    Dinner time.  There was a big picnic table and benches in front of a children’s play area that we commandeered for the evening.  Don’t know if I had too much sun today but not feeling too well so didn’t eat that much.  Went back to my tent and laid on my sleeping bag for a while with the idea of going for a shower later, but dozed off and didn’t wake up till early the next morning.  Lorraine popped her head in and asked if I was OK, she said some of the others had stomach upsets as well.
Mileage            7886 – 8102 = 216
Saturday 2nd July                                       Day15

The final push home.

05:00    Woke by the sound of Cockerels crowing and some very nice person replying with crowing and whining, went on for ages.  Bill’s got the kettle on and making toast.  Cooler this morning after the heat of yesterday and some members of the group are still feeling a bit dicky.
07:35    All showered now and finished packing up my things ready to go.
08:45    Set off for Adinkerke, wet weather gear on as it’s overcast and not very warm.  Pete S, Margaret and Bill are taking Claude’s bike, in Phil’s van, to the motorway services at Nieuwpoort, Belgium where his son is collecting it and taking it back to Claude’s place.
09:30    Fuel stop.  Unfortunately we ended up at a bunkering station on an industrial estate after getting direction from some locals in a village we passed through earlier (I think we should have turned left instead of right somewhere along the way).  Just as we were about to leave Anita run out of petrol, she went onto reserve yesterday afternoon and must have been running on vapours to get this far.  Luckily a very helpful driver there drew us a map directing us to a nearby supermarket where we all filled up.  Just as well it wasn’t too far as I was on reserve and probably wouldn’t have gone too much further myself.  We filled a can and took it back to Anita.
11:25    Fuel and coffee stop.  Sat outside McDonalds after refuelling and had coffee and croissants.
13:50    Arrived at Adinkerke and parked outside the ciggy shops.  The others have been here for a while waiting for us.  Set off for the Auchan at Dunkerque 14:00
14:25    In the Auchan car park emptying the vans ready to load the bikes ready for the tunnel.  Bought some beers and wine for home while we were there.  Left at 15:10.
15:40    Joined the queue to check in which took 25 minutes.  The trains are running around 30 minute late due to the volume of traffic travelling today.  Although we were booked on the 16:50 we actually got on an earlier train which left at 16:10, just as well as the sun was beating down and we had to push the bikes in very slow moving queues for ages before we got on the train.
16:40    GMT    Back in good old Blighty and back to Pete and Anita’s place.  Loaded my bags on the Enfield, said my goodbyes to everyone and set off for home 18:10.
20:20    Arrive safely back home, what a trip!

Mileage            8102 – 8304 = 202


I hope that in reading this report you didn’t get the impression that this trip was all doom and gloom because of the numerous references to rain.  Just because the Gods had decided to throw all sorts of weather at us, which in my wildest dreams I didn’t expect riding to Italy in July, doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic time with great company and the comradeship of fellow bikers.  For me this trip was a great adventure and something I will look back on fondly for many years to come.

During the whole round trip the one noticeable piece of good fortune we had was that no matter what time we set off each day, or how long we rode for, we always arrived at our next campsite at exactly ‘beer o clock’.  Wasn’t that lucky for us!

I would like to thank all the intrepid band of travellers (there and back) for making this such an enjoyable experience and a trip of a lifetime I’ll never forget.  My special thanks to Anita for planning the routes and guiding us throughout the trip, Pete for supplying the sweets along the way, Martyn for his help and amusing anecdotes keeping us entertained, Frank Nuber for his fantastic hospitality and Janet and Bill for welcoming me into their home.  Last, but definitely not least, Bill and Lorraine (mum & dad) for the use of their van, especially in the rain, all the hot meals, numerous beers and cups of tea and their friendship.  The trip would not have been the same without them.  I would like to think that I have come to know friends a lot better and made new friendships that will last a lifetime.

And finally
I would like to thank Danny (my long suffering wife) for supporting me while I achieved one of the goals from my “Bucket List”.

Would I do it again, who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.

Total mileage for the trip 2,382

A couple of weeks after returning I removed the Enfield’s cylinder head for a De-coke and found the inner inlet valve spring had broken up.  I think that was the cause of the noise and problems I had at the start of day 4 in Germany.  All better now.


Kim Buick

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